Two tiny hopping robots successfully landed on an asteroid called RYUGU on 22nd September 2018.
Ryugu is a near-Earth asteroid that orbits between Earth and Mars. The rovers are part of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA’s) mission to collect asteroid sample. The Hayabusa2 spacecraft was used to launch the rovers. The rovers have been hopping along the asteroids surface, while collecting data and sending back pictures.
A larger probe, about the size of a shoebox, called MASCOT (Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout), landed on the same asteroid on 3rd October. MASCOT also used the Hayabusa2 spacecraft. It took 20 minutes for the lander to reach the surface of Ryugu, with MASCOT’s first photo revealing a rocky, pitted terrain and even the probe’s boxy shadow in the image’s upper right corner. Asteroid Ryugu was about 186 million miles (300 million kilometers) from Earth at the time, said officials with the German Aerospace Center (DLR), which built MASCOT.
Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft successfully dropped the MASCOT lander on the asteroid Ryugu on Oct. 3, 2018 (Japan Standard Time).Another MINERVA lander and an impactor probe will be released in 2019, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, which is overseeing the Hayabusa2 mission. In addition to deploying the landers, JAXA’s $150 million Hayabusa2 spacecraft is designed to study asteroid Ryugu in unprecedented detail. The spacecraft will also collect samples of the asteroid and return them to Earth in December of 2020. JAXA launched the Hayabusa2 mission in 2014.
Later this year, the U.S. spacecraft OSIRIS-Rex is scheduled to make its own rendezvous with the near-Earth asteroid Bennu for NASA. That spacecraft is due to arrive at Bennu on Dec. 31 and collect samples to be returned to Earth in 2023.